Monday, October 12, 2009

N.P. in a C.P. World

It always seems to me that there are two camps: the natural parenting group and the conventional parenting group. When I read the c.p. magazines like Parents, I am a little appalled at the cavalier attitude toward kids. Like they are swine flu and I need a checklist to manage them. On the other hand, I don't really fit in with the n.p. group anymore. I am in school too much to homeschool, and as a result my kids sometimes have to do things they don't want to do, just like their mommy. My dryer is running at this moment, proving I am not the uber earthy mom I once was.

Still, I find myself applying n.p. principles to c.p. problems. Like:

A. Mornings. I was reading a c.p. magazine the other day and it had a big article on having smooth mornings. Most of the tips could be filed under: be a drill sergeant/Nazi/total meanie that your kids will cry about in therapy someday. Here are a few of my tips:

  • Rub backs and kiss the rounded cartilage-y part of their ears.
  • Make something really yummy for breakfast--they will come.
  • For teenagers, start their shower running, then wake them. Even my 14 year old won't waste hot water.
  • Do everything you can the night before, like picking out clothes, packing lunches and backpacks, etc.
  • Have fun morning traditions that no one wants to miss. Grace plays violin in the morning, and sometimes we make pictures for their bus driver if we have time.

No spray bottles of water and they still get out of bed? Indeed. Here's another c.p. magazine favorite: toddler tantrums. According to Parents, I should respond to a display of emotion by isolating the child in a homegrown version of solitary confinement and putting a stop-order on parenting them until they agree to stifle their rage, or at least put it aside until I'm not looking. Instead, I:

  • Give choices. Toddlers get mad when people make every decision for them, because they have just realized that 1. they are a separate human being from everyone else and 2. everyone else seems to be deciding what to wear, eat, play with, etc. Don't let them jump off the roof, but I think they can handle picking out shoes even if they end up wearing play shoes at the mall or even a mismatched pair.
  • Help verbalize emotions. Like, "you don't like it when we have oatmeal for breakfast? I'm sorry, that's what we have. You can choose to not eat it, but you'll be really hungry by snack time." Sometimes they just have something to say and it is too complex for their vocabulary.
  • Hug them a lot. I mean, they're two. I sometimes feel like screaming and I have sixteen times as much life experience through which to filter the whole confusing mess that life can be. If my two year old gets a little overwhelmed, it's understandable.

Here's one not from a c.p. magazine, but from a c.p. teacher. She is a little peeved because my daughter keeps reading books outside her assigned level. Either too hard and the second grader does poorly on the little computerized test they take on the books they read, or too easy because even if she reads at a fourth grade level she still likes second grade stuff like ballerinas and unicorns. So I pull out my best n.p. skills and:

  • Tell the seven year old to read whatever she wants, that the tests are totally unimportant compared to the fun of reading, and that the teacher can call me if there is a problem with that.
  • Send the teacher a letter politely expressing the above. (she never called)
  • Encourage the seven year old to at least look for a book in her assigned level before getting one that is technically too easy or too difficult.
  • If she isn't feeling like she understood the book well enough, we can read it together or she can just not take the test. Whatever, if the grade is that important, just don't take the tests unless you are confident you can ace them.
  • Look at the library for fourth grade level books about ballerina mice and girls who live in forest groves with unicorns.

Just because you are forced to live in a c.p. world, that doesn't mean you can't be a n.p. parent. If anything, I think it's easy to be the perfect earth mommy when you control your own sphere, but being a n.p. parent while surrounded by every random bit of insanity the planet can throw at you... well, that's an art form.